Dejan Kulusevski aims to bring ‘a lot of joy’ to Tottenham fans after injury return

Dejan Kulusevski aims to bring ‘a lot of joy’ to Tottenham fans after injury return

Tottenham’s Dejan Kulusevski has revealed he suffered sleepless nights while sidelined, but says he has “come back stronger” after making an instant impact on his return from injury in yesterday’s 2-1 home defeat by Liverpool.

Kulusevski took just a minute to remind fans of his importance to Spurs, coming off the bench to set up Harry Kane’s goal which halved the deficit, after Mohamed Salah’s first-half double.

The 22-year-old missed 11 games with a strained hamstring sustained during the September internationals and revealed he has learned from the experience after suffering a setback while trying to rush back to fitness last month.

But he says he was not surprised by the speed of his impact and believes he will benefit from the lay-off, as well as the upcoming six-week break for the World Cup.

“It usually happens like this, because if I’m out I come back stronger,” Kulusevski told Standard Sport. “I’m like a kid, I’m just happy to do what I do. I love the club, I love the stadium, I love the fans. I’m so happy that we have a lot of time left this season and I want to bring a lot of joy.

“I missed it a lot. Now I can sleep! I can be happy at least that I’m back, as I love to play and love to play for this club. Bad result, but finally I’m back.”

Asked if he had really had sleepless nights, he said: “Yeah, it’s hard at this age, especially for me, as I [find it] very hard to accept that I’m injured, because you always think you are a machine. It’s always tough but you just have to accept it and do the small things.

“It [the injury] was a small thing and then you’re like, ‘Okay, maybe we can do it a little bit faster and try to rush it’ and then it hits back on you. I definitely need to learn, I need to learn a lot, but I’m happy for the experience.

“I think the break [for the World Cup] is a good thing for me, because then I can work on my game.

“We footballers never have time to work on our game, but now we have one month in two weeks, so I’m looking forward to it, doing a good programme and coming back very much better. I hate not to be there. I’m a football geek, so I’ll probably watch some games but try to enjoy outside life with family and train a lot.”

Spurs face Nottingham Forest in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, with Antonio Conte expected to finally rest Kane, who is Spurs’ only outfield player to start every game this season.

Asked if he was ready to start at the City Ground, Kulusevski said: “I don’t know, we’ll have to speak about this. Yesterday was actually the first day I really ran a lot, because Saturday was 20 minutes’ training and before that I haven’t trained.

“I want to take it easy, I know it’s only two games left [before the break], and I want to be fit so I can do this holiday good and train and build myself up.”

Spurs were missing Heung-min Son, who is recovering from facial surgery, and Richarlison, while Kulusevski and Lucas Moura were only fit enough for the bench, leaving Ivan Perisic to partner Kane up front. Nonetheless, they were the better side for long periods but undone by Salah’s clinical strikes, the second after a bad mistake from Eric Dier.

Characteristically, Conte’s side got better as the game went on, particularly after Kulusevski and Matt Doherty were introduced in the 69th minute.

“Second half was good, very good,” Kulusevski added. “The problem is we have to play like this for 90 minutes. It’s the difference. If we start playing like this for 90 minutes we are going to win most of the games, so we have to improve in the first half.”